Featured Image: Devon Rachel
Article By: Melina Brum
Anxiety makes us feel like we are isolated in our messy thoughts and once this happens we start to feel sad about feeling alone, then we feel unsettled about feeling sad—and so on. A lot of people who suffer from anxiety find themselves stuck in anxious ruts like this. You have to remember that you’re not the only one who feels this way, even though it may not be easy to believe.
We generally tend to feel this way because we cling onto these anxious thoughts, ruminating over them and trying to fight them. The most important thing to remember when trying to combat anxiety is to not actually brawl with it. In order to win this battle, you must be willing to embrace anxiety for all that it is. Kind of like reverse psychology. Let the feelings come and then let them go.
This isn’t about winning a war with anxiety, it’s about welcoming it into your life and not looking at is as a looming threat. If you can co-exist with your enemies, you will find peace within yourself. Anxiety is a demon, but you don’t have to let it demonize your life. With this being said, I am aware that all of this is much easier said than done… trust me. But the following are 13 ways to help combat anxiety in an effective manner.
1. Allow Yourself to Be Human
Surprise! You’re human, which means you’re entitled to experience human emotions. These emotions vary from happiness to despair… I’m sure you’re familiar with them. As I mentioned earlier, don’t try to resist negative feelings that arise. Instead, try to acknowledge them and let them visit until they’re ready to leave. If you try to push them out on your time, you will waste your energy on something that is bound to pass on its own. Don’t invest your time in entertaining these thoughts. They are just thoughts and nothing more. Sure, these unpleasant feelings are uncomfortable (I mean, they’re uninvited guests—of course, they’re going to feel uncomfortable), but they don’t make you weak or defective.
2. Evaluate How You’re Feeling
Assess the situation and ask yourself why you might be feeling this way. What are you telling yourself in moments of anxiety? Are you thinking logically or are you fueling the fire of irrationality? Always end with the question, “How can I cope with this?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s productive to be aware of your mind and body when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack or even when you’re just having an anxious thought. If you break it down, it might not be as bad as it feels. Anxiety has a way of exaggerating and catastrophizing thoughts and situations.
3. Talk to Someone
Who said you had to do this on your own? Because you don’t. A highly effective way to cope with anxious thoughts and feelings is to express them to someone you trust. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist, just reach out and release your emotions. They might have some helpful advice or similar feelings. Or maybe they can just lend a shoulder to cry on. Either way, letting out your thoughts is much more liberating than letting them seep into the deepest levels of your brain. Air it out!
4. Have An Escape Route
For me, a lot my anxiety comes from feeling trapped in different ways. When you put yourself in anxiety-inducing situations, don’t convince yourself that you’re stuck or out of control. No matter what the scenario is, develop an alternative way to look at it. For example, I get nervous at the doctor’s office. If I’m at the doctor and feel like I can’t leave the room, I tell myself that if I am overwhelmed I am allowed to say I have to go to the bathroom. Little escape routes like this make things much more manageable. Sometimes you need a mental crutch.
5. Set A Bedtime Schedule
This rule helped me in my most anxious moments. Before you go to bed, give yourself some “me time” in a technology-free zone. Most of us are guilty of absorbing ourselves in our cell phones, TVs, and laptops at night. But instead, grab a book (poetry, fiction, a magazine, a coloring book, etc.) and a cup of non-caffeinated tea before you sleep. Pick a time to set down your book and close your eyes. If you really have trouble sleeping, try melatonin and some lavender oil to make it a little easier. This process can make a huge difference in balancing out your day.
6. Be Productive
Get up! Move! Clean your room! Dance around! Exercise! Go outside! Go shopping! Do something other than sitting around and focusing on your thoughts. It’s so much easier to overthink and obsess over your feelings when you’re doing nothing. I know it’s hard to get up and move sometimes but you need it more than you may realize. I used to hate when people told me this because I thought it was insensitive, but they were right. When you have too much time on your hands, anxiety traps you and closes itself in on you—it knows it has your full attention.
It’s easy to forget to do the simplest functions when your mind is busy focusing on doom. Just remember to take a deep breath. As soon as you start to feel familiar anxious feelings, start practicing breathing exercises. Make it a habit to immediately start breathing exercises as soon as you start to feel anxious. Research some techniques to help you focus on your breathing. There are also pressure points on your body that you can massage or apply pressure to that can help ground you.
8. Be Mindful of The Moment
I feel very strongly about this suggestion because it has helped ground me when I’ve found myself floating into anxiety land. There’s a book by Alan Watts called The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety that changed my perception. It explores the need for security and certainty in this life and how we can find this in the acceptance of uncertainty and by being mindful of the moment we are in. As a society, we are always caught up in the next moment. We cling onto the past and worry about the future. But the bottom line is, we only have control over our reaction to life—so why worry? Mindfulness is definitely a practice that takes patience, but if it can change your life, then it’s very much worth it.